Malcolm Dawson writes…..For this and the next few weeks a few lucky adolescents on North Teeside are the beneficiaries of Peter Sixsmith‘s years of experience of teaching History in his idiosyncratic style. “Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?” (Click here to put into context!)
He wasn’t there at Craven Cottage but he kept up with events via Benno and Barnes and numerous texts from those who were, thus flummoxing John McCormick with his customary Seven. But you can’t do a match report second hand and so it is the fine figure of Bob Chapman stepping into the breach and onto the soapbox to bring us his take on the events from a chilly West London. Bob had to do a day’s work today but here is his view of Tuesday night’s win.
FULHAM 1 SAFC 3 – FA CUP REPLAY CRAVEN COTTAGE
Working in Bedford, I am in the fortunate position that I can travel to watch Sunderland during the working week. With a speedy escape from school, out of the door even before the kids have their coats on, I can get to most grounds in the country ready for an evening kick-off. I even made it to Exeter for a League Cup match 25 years ago, although that would be impossible today with the state of the current motorways.
So getting to Fulham on a Tuesday evening posed no problem whatsoever. I didn’t need to be first out of the door and even had time to set my year 7 class their homework on the science of icebergs and their role in the sinking of the Titanic. (Bet that went down well! MD)
Picking Mick up round the corner we headed for Bedford station for the train to St. Pancras. By the time some of my students would have arrived home, we were both sat down in The White Horse on Parsons Green. I invariably drink in this pub for both Fulham and Chelsea matches as it has its own micro-brewery and serves a good selection of guest beers. I decided on a pint of First Class made by the Titanic Brewery. (Bet that went down well! MD)
Mick had an obscure lager and we found ourselves without any change out of a tenner! London is a different world. With the amount of money they are charging it’s no wonder that this pub can afford to have patio heaters on full blast at 5.30 on a freezing cold winter’s evening and nobody sat outside. We had a couple of pints and discussed, because of the expense, whether it would be appropriate for a couple of middle aged men to get involved in an old student activity and in Mick’s case an army activity of ‘minesweeping’. I suppose it’s technically not legal but neither of us like seeing beer wasted! We decided against and left – back towards the underground station, past an estate agent with flats to rent from £3000 per week. London is a different world!
With a couple of pints of Titanic inside, a full moon and a cold northerly wind, I was hoping that we were not going to be hit by an iceberg and an exit from the cup. Although the match at the SOL had been awful I was confident that we would get a result tonight and I was even more convinced when a really strong attacking side had been selected, with Defoe and Wickham upfront supported by Giaccherini and Alvarez. Like the majority I was surprised to see Fletcher appear rather than Wickham. I like both of them. They both have good technique but are very different players. Gus will have to make difficult choices as to who plays up top with Defoe.
Walking up from Putney Bridge station it was evident that there was going to be a good turnout. The only disappointment being the “Steven Taylor” chants that you hear at every away match. A steward told me inside that they were expecting up to 4000 and that he liked us because we are never any trouble.
The game started and within 30 seconds Alvarez had made a strong tracking back run, to alleviate Fulham’s opening gambit. I thought to myself, that Poyet must have told him that if he is to play regularly he would have to improve the defensive side of his game. This was a good sign and from the start we began to dominate the game. I lost count of the number of corners we had in the first 20 minutes and was beginning to think that just like the Titanic we were unsinkable and it was just a matter of time before we scored. Then in 28th minute, against the run of play we hit that iceberg! A McCormack corner caused a scramble in the box and Rodallega put it away off the crossbar. They didn’t deserve it to be honest, but you have to defend properly if you are going to win games.
However, the usual post conceding goal slump didn’t materialise and we continued to dominate. We were playing really well as a team and our quietest player was Defoe. Giaccherini, Alvarez, Van Aanholt were all having good games, causing all sorts of problems down the flanks for Fulham. However there was no breakthrough and I was beginning to worry at half time. That continued into the second half and I began to really worry when PvA missed an easy chance early on.
With a lingering depression beginning to kick in at the thought of meeting up with a Fulham supporting A level student next day at school, Fulham hit the iceberg! Bettinelli had the easiest of tasks collecting a high loose ball, but allowed it to slip from his grasp and it went over the line. With goals like that you always assume that there must have been something dodgy and double check with yourself before celebrating. Even at my age I don’t want to look a fool!
Nothing to worry about and it was game on for the win. Alvarez had been outstanding throughout the match.
Even though the Fulham players were doubling up on him they couldn’t contain him as he demonstrated his international class. With 15 minutes to go he cut in from the right wing beating players and unleashed a shot that flew into the net. A goal of real quality and let’s hope one of many to come. He has the potential to change our season, just like Borini did last year. Remember, Borini couldn’t get a regular start, just like Alvarez, when he first arrived.
Another plus has to be the form of Danny Graham. He seems sharp and has done well in all the substitute appearances he has made. He made a good run in the final minute to win the penalty which finally sealed the game. So with the game won and not feeling the cold it was a pleasant walk back to Putney Bridge station. It was great to hear the chant changed from one about Steven Taylor to that of “Cheesy Chips down Wembley Way!”